Lighting Club #15 – CG Cinematography

Hullo everybody !

Winter and snow are there (well at least in Canada)… So grab your hot white chocolate, take your favorite duvet and be ready for this new Lighting Club article.

We know you like to read isn’t ? We will talk about a book then ! You probably already hear about it, it is called the CG Cinematography book – but in our mind it could also be called “The Lighting Bible”. This free English online book has been written by Christophe Brejon de Lavergnée, currently french Lighting Lead at Illumination Macguff. He worked in many places all around the world such as Weta, Framestore, Animal Logic, Illion, Cinesite and more… And he is also teacher in a CG french school, make sense he wanted to share his knowledge with the world then.

CG Cinematography book has eleven different chapters, almost all of them are artistic wise (which we enjoyed a lot).

As you can see, everything you need it there… Plus he both talks about VFX and feature animation. Because it is and amount of priceless information really well explained, with images, production examples, graphs, quote from incredible people, and more, you have to read this book. But before, feel free to see Chris answers about his book and also about some lighting stuff.

Hey Chris,  thanks a lot for answering our questions ! Tell us more about you and your resume.

I have been in the industry for thirteen years now and I currently work as a Lighting Lead at Illumination Mac Guff on Minions 2. I got the chance to work abroad for quite some time in Australia, New-Zealand, Canada, Spain, Scotland and Brazil.

You recently published a book online, which covers more or less everything you know about lighting overall, why did you decide to do it ? What was the main goal ?

I am used to writing a lot of wiki so it only made sense for me to write this book. It is probably during my trip at Animal and Weta that it clicked. I had the chance to meet these great people (Craig, Grant, Sandip…) and I thought to myself : this is too awesome, I have to write this down and share it somehow. I had this weird epiphany back there you know, like all the dots were finally connecting together… A universal lighting recipe ! LOL. I guess my main goal was to help and give back to the lighting community what I had been given. 

We guess it was a huge amount of work, do you plan to publish it as a real book and to sell it ?

I actually started the book as a Google Doc that I shared with a couple of colleagues.  When it reached around 130 pages, I started to think of a way to improve it. It took me a while to finally realize that a free website was the best medium. I don’t plan on making a real book and selling it. Not at all. It has to be free. I’ll probably do a free PDF file when version 2.0 is released next year so people can consult it offline as well.

What could be the next step for you after this book ?

I would like to finish the book properly. 😉 The version 1.0 I have released in October is barely a pre-alpha. I feel like I am only scratching the surface on many topics and I already have a very long list of ideas  to develop and examples I would like to add. So I am thinking about taking a break in 2020 to properly finish the book and give some master classes here and there. There is also a Spanish translation in the way.

What is a good lighting td in your opinion ? (can we replace td by artist?)

Attitude is everything in my opinion. I like artists who give feedback, ask questions and are willing to learn and share. A good attitude, to be proactive and positive when you are facing issues is key (pun intended). I guess another quality I am looking for is someone who can adapt. It doesn’t really matter if you’re really good with one render engine or one lighting style. What is important is to have a broad vision of lighting topics such as layering, sampling, optimization… And to adapt to each company’s culture.

And a good lighting ?

A good lighting depends on some such things… Of course, clarity would be the first to come to my mind… One would say that a good lighting supports or enhances the director’s vision. Having said that, it is pretty rare to work on a project with a clear artistic vision. So I would say in most cases a good lighting is about depth, shaping, contrast and above all : guiding the viewer’s eye. Craig Welsh used to say : don’t be shy, we want you to make a bold statement. A good key lighting would be something along those lines.

What is for your the most impressive lighting you have seen in a feature film ? Why ?

Wow, that’s a tough one… I’d say probably the night sequence in Rango is something that still amazes me. And of course Guardian of Ga’Hoole I mean… It is just insane how this movie looks. It is so bold, you know ? More recently Spiderverse from Sony blew me away. And so did The Witness (from Love, Death & Robtos on Netflix) ! You can really feel the talent from Alberto Mielgo in both. Properly amazing ! These new experimentation really open a door to very exciting things !

And in a VFX movie ? Why ? 

I would probably say Avatar is still a visual reference as a movie… The Lion King was  also very very impressive ! But If I had to choose my favorite cinematography of all time that would be Blade Runner by Jordan Cronenweth. It has aged so well, all the practical effects on set and everything. The Witch by Jarin Blaschke is another live-action piece I just love to watch and study. But if I really think about it, the first Jurassic Park from 1993 ! It actually made me want to work in the CG industry. I was ten years old… And it has aged so well, you know ?

Talking about new stuff incoming, what did you think about latest Pixar Soul trailer lighting ?

I think it looks great, especially the jazzy vibe from it. I also like the edit : the quick cuts, the shots with the policeman in NYC… It makes it all very dynamic. I just hope the story is not too redundant with Inside Out. I am still trying to figure out if Pixar works with ACES… 😉

Thanks for answering our question Chris, and welcome in the Lighting Club, any last word ? 

Thanks for having me in the Lighting Club ! This book has been a great journey so far. I had a lot of positive feedback and it makes think that it was worth writing it. 😉

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Now you know a bit more about Christophe, you can enjoy his book >>HERE<< !! And share it with your friends/colleagues :). We hope you enjoyed and see you next month with a new Lighting Club article mates !

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WesmO.

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